More Workers Becoming Independent Contractors

May 6, 2010

contractEmployers are begin to hire cautiously again, but many are filling positions with temporary or freelance workers, who typically receive less money and no benefits such as vacations, health insurance and sick days.

"It's cheaper to hire contingent workers, but also more flexible for employers," explained Bill Kahnweiler, associate professor and human resource expert at Georgia State University's Department of Public Management and Policy, who was interviewed by MSNBC.com. "If someone decides, 'We need to be this size,' it's far easier to do that with contract workers and temps."

Gary Mathiason, senior managing editor at Littler Mendelson, told MSNBC.com that he expects to see more freelance opportunities for highly skilled positions, including scientists, engineers and managers. Companies, he explained, will be concentrating on project-based work and will hire groups of professionals as needed.

"The business model has definitely arrived," he said to MSNBC.com. "It was starting to arrive, but the recession caused an acceleration in the process."

Michael Sinclair, an independent contractor who was interviewed by The New York Times, agreed. He has embraced his work, which often requires him to juggle multiple projects at once.

"I think it's far less risky than being in a full-time job somewhere and cut at will and left with nothing," he told the Times. "I see this as the way more people will work in the future."

But others find freelance work stressful because of its lack of permanence. Christine Reams, for example, has been working on a contract assignment at her former employer in Columbus, Ohio, for over six months.

"It's not permanent," she told the Times about the assignment. "So I am not feeling secure."

In a related story, The Wall Street Journal reports that more freelancers are having trouble getting paid for their work.

According to the New York-based Freelancers Union, about 40 percent of freelancers had problems receiving payment in 2009. The organization also reported that over 75 percent of freelancers have had trouble getting paid over the course of their careers. The Journal speculated that the problem could become worse with the proliferation of independent contractors in the workforce.

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"As Companies Hire Again, More Jobs Go Freelance," MSNBC.com, May 6, 2010, Eve Tahmincioglu

"More Freelancers Fight to be Paid," The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2010, Joe Light

"Recession Adds to Appeal of Short-Term Jobs," The New York Times, April 19, 2010, Michael Luo

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